Carole Levine July 8, 2022
I just got my 7th, or was it my 8th, invite to a webinar on what our next steps should be in regaining our abortion rights now that the Supreme Court has, for the first time, taken a constitutionally protected right away. And also sitting in my inbox are at least another 2 or three invites for similar meetings on gun regulations and a few more other issues that this conservative Supreme Court has now elevated to a point where we must pay attention and do something to create change.
And then came July 4th. I live in Illinois… in Chicago… and I have many, many friends who live in Highland Park where a 21 year old, white shooter climbed to the top of a building with his legally purchased automatic rifle and slaughtered seven who were watching the city’s parade and wounded manys others, not to mention the wounded psyches of those who dropped everything and ran for shelter. And many of us spent the day following this saga as the search for the gunman continued and events in surrounding communities were cancelled. I watched politicians pontificate about “doing something” when this “person of interest” was captured without incident in a traffic stop. I could not help but think, that if he were Black or Brown, he would have been shot dead, just like Jayland Walker, in Akron, Ohio who was also stopped for a traffic violation. But Walker’s other violation was that he was Black and so it did not matter that he had not killed 7 innocent parade goers, he was killed in a torrent of bullets and our Illinois shooter was taken without incident. Our world is in a shambles and sorting it out is not going to be simple.
As an activist, I am having a difficult time. Somehow, I should know where to put my angst and my energy (which as an aging Boomer, I find is ebbing) and be able to advise those who are asking me what they should do. But nothing is clear. We have done such a magnificent job of pushing off all of the urgent issues to the back burner that now everything is on fire at once. For the first time ever, younger women like my granddaughters will have fewer rights than I had. Our environment is imploding, with limited time to do something to change the ruinous outcome, and legislators are passing laws that are preventing needed changes from happening. Our right to religious freedom is being re-directed to prioritize only one specific faith and if it is not your faith, well, too bad. You will just have to put up with it, and your faith will have the back row seats. And other rights that have been considered protected by “settled law” are now at risk. So much that we have fought for – the right to make our own personal health care decisions; the right to love and marry the persons we wish; the right to protections when we are stopped by law enforcement; the right for experts to regulate and protect our environment; the right for religious practices not to be imposed on us (or paid for by our taxes) – all of these are now up for grabs or out of our control.
What is most worrisome is the growth of what I can only label as “power grabbing” by state legislatures (usually dominated by Republicans advantaged by partisan gerrymandering) who are passing bills that will remove powers from their own state supreme courts to make decisions about state and federal election results and give that power to themselves. This means that in some states, your vote is actually not your vote. If it does not align with the politics of the state legislature, it could be meaningless and count for nothing. This would, in essence, be installing the plan for “alternative electors” that former President Trump tried to use on January 6th, 2020, into law. I find it very frightening.
So now, when I am asked by others who are usually feeling down and disheartened, “What should I be doing?” I have come to the conclusion that I need to be able to answer them even when I feel as exhausted and disillusioned as they do. So here is my advice:
- Get angry. Get really, really angry. What is happening cannot be met with whimpers and sadness. We need to be ferocious in our responses and we may need to scare people when they think about turning us away.
- Look internally first. You may need to confront some of your own biases and prejudices and even your very real desire to just “sit this out” and let others fight this battle. So much of what is happening may not touch or change your life… but will harm so many others. If you do not look at what is lost by your stepping back from this fight then I have to point to the slogan from the ‘60’s: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
- Channel your anger into groups that have some power and clout. Don’t just talk to each other. Talk to those you vote for. Call their offices every day and tell them you are angry and tired of them doing nothing that moves the needle. Tell them you are mobilizing people who vote and people who never vote and then, do it. Repeat this process every day!
- Go to demonstrations, but don’t expect them to make you feel great. It’s good to be among others who have your back, but the real work gets done on the phone, knocking on doors and making calls to elected officials. Marching in the streets in OK… and should be done, but it may not change anyone’s mind.
- Find organizations that you trust and that have experience in making change. Look for advocacy organizations on specific issues you care about the most and join them, support them with money, with your time as a volunteer and with your voice as a supporter.
- Talk to others about what you are doing. Rather than bemoaning the state of the world, be a voice for action. When others are complaining, be the one with some options and solutions for next steps and actions. Show others what can be done or where to find out what the possibilities are.
- Listen to youth. We have much to learn from those who are younger than we are. We tend to trust the “old guard” but they are the ones who have not been getting the job done. Perhaps it is time to take the risk of trusting the “new kids” and giving their ideas a chance. Sure, it may be uncomfortable at times, but they are, after all, the future. It is time to take a chance on the future.
- And always, always talk about the importance of VOTING. The turnout for primary elections has been abysmal. It does not bode well for the Midterm elections and we need to make sure that this is not the case! Voting and voter turnout is critical to making the changes that will impact the issues that we are so upset about. It is our superpower and if there ever was a time when we need to use it, that time is now.
So if you can’t decide what you want to do to pull yourself out of the doldrums and get back into something that will make you feel like you are contributing to rebuilding this broken nation, I would recommend you look for that one campaign that means something to you. It can be local, state or national, but make it yours! Volunteer and work because you can make a difference. And win or lose, your time will be well spent, your anger will be well-directed, others may join you, and you will learn a great deal.
And for now, I will direct my own anger into the groups and organizations that I have worked with for many years and see if we can make some change and move the needle on some of these issues. I would hate to leave the world in a worse place for my grandchildren than it was when I came into it.